Travis Pastrana ‘taking a chance’ at Daytona Kevin Harvick leaves mark as behind-the-scenes mentor for ‘my kids’ in NASCAR Dr. Diandra: Determining the 10 all-time best Cup drivers at Daytona Kyle Busch to run five Truck races for KBM in 2023 Myatt Snider to run six Xfinity races with Joe Gibbs Racing
In the so-called “combat” sport, Travis Pastrana is king. He is well known across the spectrum of motorsport that is a bit on the fringes – X Games, Gymkhana, motocross and rally.
Now he’s jumping to the edge as he tries to qualify for the Daytona 500 in what will be his first start in the NASCAR Cup series.
Pastrana, who enters the 500 in a third Toyota fielded by 23XI Racing, will be one of at least six drivers vying for four non-charter starting spots in the race. Also on this list: Jimmie Johnson Conor Daly, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith And Austin Hill.
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It is clear that simply getting a place on the 500 grid will not be easy.
“I love challenges,” Pastrana told NBC Sports. “I wanted to be part of the Great American Race ever since I started watching it on TV as a kid. Most drivers and athletes, once they reach the top of a sport, don’t risk trying anything else. I love to push myself. If I feel like a favorite in something, I lose interest and attention a little. Yes, I’m confused, but I believe I can do it safely. In the end, the most fun time for me is when I fight and fight the best.”
Although Pastrana, 39, hasn’t raced in the Cup Series, he’s no stranger to NASCAR. He competed in 42 Xfinity races, competed in the full series for Roush Fenway Racing in 2013 (winning pole and top 10 four times) and five Craftsman Truck races.
“These are all amazing memories,” Pastrana said. “In my first race at Richmond (in 2012) Denny Hamlin really helped me. I was driving down the track in practice and he was waiting for me to pick up speed. He actually ruined his practice by helping me pick up speed. Joey Logano jumped in my car in New Hampshire, did a couple of laps and switched cars and on the next lap I went from 28th to 13th. I had so many people who really lend a helping hand and help me get the experience I need.”
Pastrana was fast but had trouble adapting to the NASCAR experience and the rhythm of the races.
“It was extremely difficult for me not to grow up in NASCAR,” he said. “I come from motocross where the duration is shorter. It’s all or nothing. You buy time by taking risks. In asphalt racing, we are talking about rear-wheel drive. You can’t carry your car. In NASCAR, you don’t have to take risks. It’s about homework. It’s about the team. It’s about understanding where you can move fast and be at your best for three hours straight.”
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Pastrana said that he did not venture into NASCAR with the idea of devoting himself fully to stock car racing.
“The thing is, I was trying to get to the Daytona 500,” he said. “Then I looked around when I was doing the K&N series and I saw kids like Chase Elliott And Kyle Larson. They were teenagers and they were already as good or better than me.”
He now hopes to be in the mix with Elliott, Larson and the rest of the players when the green flag falls at 500.
He will get some bonus laps driving Niece Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series in Dayton.
“For the first time, my main goal, other than hitting the 500, is not to win,” Pastrana said. “Of course we will take the win, but my main goal is to finish on the lead lap and not cause any problems. I know we’re going to have a strong car from the 23XI, so the only way I can mess things up is by causing an accident.
“I just wish I could go out and be part of the Great American Race.”
Black Rifle Coffee Company will sponsor Pastrana in Dayton.
longtime personality Kevin Harvick was a NASCAR champion who made a career out of driving his opponents to despair.
There are endless examples of destabilization by a former high school wrestler from Bakersfield who devilishly played mind games joyfully during title battles pushed the competition into fights and ruthlessly put himself and his team first at all costs.
But as the 47-year-old driver nicknamed “Lucky” (a nickname of sarcastic origin) enters his final season in the Cup Series, the next generation of drivers will happily tear down Harvick’s façade as a selfish superstar.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver they know was a source of good advice and emotional support. A veteran who actively offered a helping hand, even when many didn’t know they needed it. An accessible and shriveled ear to bend on almost any topic – and with almost any driver, regardless of his history with a fickle star.
LONG: Kevin Harvick has ignited the spark for NASCAR for many years.
Although Chase Elliott and Harvick was involved in one of NASCAR’s most memorable recent feuds in 2021, the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he and Harvick still have a “good relationship” that goes back nearly a decade. When Elliott began his Xfinity Series rookie season with JR Motorsports in 2014, it was Harvick (who spent his first year part-time at JRM) who became his biggest influence.
“Kevin was really a veteran in the building who was willing to help me and let me ask questions and I asked a ton of questions,” Elliott told NBC Sports. “We talked quite a bit there in the beginning, and I’m grateful for that. It’s not often that you find a veteran who is willing to lend a helping hand to a young rider who actually has very little experience, especially since many of these tracks are being ridden for the first time. And he understood it and was ready to help. So I have always had a lot of respect for him in many ways. Obviously he is a very good rider, but just for this period of time and for the fact that he is ready to help me, I will always be very grateful for that. These are important moments in a young rider’s career.”
Bubba Wallace recalls receiving a dinner invitation from Harvick a few years ago when he first started in the Cup. Wallace shared a meal with Harvick and his wife, Delana, and “just got to chat and talk about life.
“I will always remember that moment when he just wanted to help,” Wallace told NBC Sports. “Just knowing that Happy has a really good side was pretty cool to see and from the times we had skirmishes on the track we still compete with each other with respect and treat each other with respect. So I will always remember this moment.”
Harvick wants to leave that impression, but would rather “keep it as private as possible because I don’t want them to ever think it’s so I can talk about it (to the media).” It is noteworthy that the details of these meetings surfaced years later (and only at the prompting of the younger group).
“When they talk about it, I agree with it, but I’m just genuinely interested in trying to share what I’ve been able to experience and make mistakes,” Harvick said. “There are so few guys on these cars that you can really talk to them more and just reach out. With some of them you reach out and don’t hear much from them. Some of them you turn to and find yourself having dinner with you or having dinner at your house.
“They need to know you are there. Some of them cannot believe that you contacted them because they are trying to figure out why you contacted them. Or understand why you are interested in what they do. And really, this is just an attempt to set an example, because in the generation before me, all these guys communicated, helped each other and knew each other, and I think that this is important for our group of riders. We somehow got away from it. Some of it may be my fault that I didn’t try to tie it together a little better, but we’ve been hard at work on this for the last year and a half with all the security stuff and things we had. to sit still for a while.”
Harvick left the first iteration of the Drivers’ Council five years ago, disillusioned with its lack of influence. But with security concerns raised by the debut of Next Gen last year, he has re-emerged as an outspoken force that has been adamant about protecting his younger peers. Before the 2022 season finale in Phoenix, the father-of-two explained why he is being more public.
“I want my colleagues to be informed and educated, and I know how to do it,” he said. “It’s just an interesting time, and something that worked that way. I feel that most of the (younger drivers) are my children. I don’t feel obligated, but I think the time is right for it. You…